August 2016

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Pueblo Men Reconnect to Traditional Activities in “Healing Fields”

Jon Naranjo

On a recent hot summer’s day, a client named Bruce was working in a field adjacent to the Española Farmers’ Market. To no one in particular, he said, “I know what I am doing here; I’m a farmer!” That statement resonates deeply. Pueblo men cultivated and farmed these lands in the Tewa Basin thousands of years ago. How many Pueblo men before Bruce have shared this sentiment?

Bruce and 13 others, including staff from New Moon Lodge, are working in unison this season, planting, cultivating, irrigating, weeding and working with the soil as part of individualized programs to recover from chemical dependency. 

A thousand years ago there was no such thing as chemical dependency. The “healing fields,” as we call them, allow an individual to partake in a role as a Pueblo man, to reconnect to cultural and traditional activities that reeducate and provide self-sustaining life skills.

New Moon Lodge is a 14-bed inpatient facility at the Pueblo of Ohkay Owingeh that provides treatment programs for Native American men. The agriculture initiative is part of the Circle of Life program coordinated by Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Council, Inc. New Moon Lodge is a place of healing and transition for people with chemical dependency problems who are on the road to recovery. The lodge is a low-intensity, clinically managed, residential treatment program. Its goal is to provide an environment that supports clients in making appropriate choices so that they can establish and maintain a clean and sober lifestyle.

This year, New Moon Lodge entered into a partnership with the Española Farmers’ Market to use its land to grow crops so that the lodge’s farmland can recover from 20 years of production. In exchange, New Moon Lodge cleaned up the front entrance and set up signs for the market. The lodge’s clients have planted sweet corn, traditional heirloom white and blue corn, a variety of watermelons, string beans, Indian tobacco and onions. Most of the participants agree that working in the 2-acre field reminds them of growing up and playing in the fields as their fathers and uncles worked. A few have never planted and are learning experientially. One of our clients, Henry, said, “I love working in the field. It makes me feel good smelling the water as it rolls over the dry dirt, listening to the birds and working with others, but most of all, sharing the harvest.” These men come from various Pueblo, Navajo or Apache families and talk about how they lost connection with this kind of work.

Another client expressed a different view. He said, “This is hard work and it is hot standing under the sun for hours. I did not sign up for hard labor!” Working with this individual, discussing the benefits of how working in a farm field can help a person, persuaded him to open up his heart and his mind. He eventually changed his attitude.

What does working in the field provide? It definitely is hard work. Asking someone who has not participated in physically demanding work to stand out under the hot sun for hours cultivating, irrigating or cutting weeds naturally will elicit protests. It is not apparent at first that this is an opportunity to learn skills that can reap physical, health, spiritual, cultural and financial benefits.

Working the land helps clear the mind as one focuses on the tasks at hand. One can take advantage of this time to think through problems that may be hindering personal progress. Working the land is holistic therapy. Working with the soil, water, plants and even grasshoppers does something magical that is cleansing, simple and methodically slow, which teaches even the most experienced and knowledgeable farmer patience and humility.

Some of the crops produced in these “healing fields” are sold at the Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Arts and Farmers’ Market, which is held every Saturday through Oct. 8, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The market is located at 327 Eagle Drive, Ohkay Owingeh, just north of Española, behind the Ohkay Casino. They are also sold at the Española Farmers’ Market, which operates on Mondays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Oct. 31 at 1005 Railroad Ave. in Española.

The crops also supplement the nutritional program at New Moon Lodge. If you are interested in purchasing produce, call 505.852.2788 or email:


Jon Naranjo (Santa Clara/Hopi) is a programs coordinator for the Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Council.



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